You're Not a Grown-Up Until You Have a Credit Card. Here's Why

Category: Credit Card Debt Published: Monday, 29 February 2016 Written by Super User

A lot of people hate credit cards, and for good reasons. They make it easy to overspend and end up in very expensive debt. If youve had the experience of paying off credit card debt or watched someone struggle through it, perhaps youve come away from it thinking, Im sticking to cash.

That seems to be the mindset of younger consumers. Facebook analyzed financial conversations, conducted surveys and reviewed audience data of users ages 21 to 34 and collected the findings in a white paper titled Millennials + money: The unfiltered journey. According to the paper, the majority of millennials (57%) prefer to use cash or debit cards instead of credit cards, and the generation seems greatly attached to the goal of living debt-free. They were asked to define financial success, and 47% said it was to be debt-free. Their most common financial priority (43%) is to pay down debt.

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Point taken. Millennials dont like debt. Thats likely a huge reason theyre relying on cash and debit cards for their everyday purchases.

But dismissing credit cards could be a big mistake for young consumers, and they might not realize why. Nearly a third (30%) of millennials say they are not sure how credit cards could be helpful, the Facebook paper said. Well, heres how.

You Can Build Credit

You dont need credit to participate in the economy and live happily, but it can make things a heck of a lot easier. Your credit rating comes into play with big financial decisions, like buying a house or car (unless youre only using cash), but it affects a lot more than that. Bad credit or no credit could make it harder or more expensive for you to rent housing, set up utilities, get a cellphone or get insurance. It could even affect your job prospects. There are a lot of situations in which a good credit score comes in handy.

But how do you get a good credit score? One way is to use a credit card responsibly. You can start with a secured credit card (weve reviewed the best secured credit cards here) or ask a close friend or relative to co-sign your card application. Try to use very little of your available credit and make the payments on time. Those two things are the foundation of a good credit score.

You Dont Need to Go Into Debt

The interest rates on credit cards tend to be much higher than they are on other credit products, like personal loans, auto loans or mortgages. That being said, you can use a credit card without ever having to pay interest. In other words, you can improve your credit score without debt.

If you pay your credit card bill in full every time its due, you can take advantage of whats called a grace period -- the time between when you make a purchase and actually take the money from your bank account to pay for it. During that time, youre technically borrowing money from your credit card issuer, but the grace period allows you to borrow that money without accruing interest on it.

On one hand, its a great tool: Youre building credit without going into debt. But be careful: If you miss a payment, you can lose your grace period, and your credit card issuer can start charging you interest for the outstanding balance. To make debt-free credit card use work for you, you need to pay very close attention to how much youre spending (so you can cover the bill) and make sure youre paying bills on time.

Credit cards can be both helpful and hurtful, which is why some people take the cautious route and avoid them. Unfortunately, that can make things more challenging for you at some point. This isnt to say everyone should have credit cards, but if you want to minimize the challenges of major adult milestones like buying a home or new car, you might want to give them a (careful) try to build your credit. You can check your progress and see two of your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.

More on Credit Cards:
  • Credit.com's Expert Credit Card Shopping Tips
  • How to Get a Credit Card With Bad Credit
  • An Expert Guide to Credit Cards With Rewards

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